Thursday, December 3, 2015

From SEO in 2016 – What You Need to Know

SEO is always evolving. What does SEO in 2016 look like?  Algorithms change to outsmart the cheaters and therefore the best practices that you use to optimize your website for search engines will evolve as well. While your business priorities may be the same from this year to the next, remember that search engines are also running a business and will adjust the rules to match their priorities.

Mobile Optimization is the New Standard

So there is SEO, and then there is mobile optimization which we’ve been talking up as its own special thing for the past two years as everyone gets on the mobile train. Now we are moving into a time where SEO automatically includes mobile optimization. Anyone who is working on a platform that is not optimized for mobile should put SEO activities on hold while they get that situation fixed.

You may conduct your business, and build and update your website, on a desktop but customers have gone mobile and your website and marketing need to be as well. So take note, from now on SEO is for mobile and desktop user will be adapting to those advancements in 2016 and beyond. Google pretty much declared outright hatred of sites not optimized for mobile devices and if you haven’t complied with Google’s wishes there is no amount of SEO that is going to help you now.

SERPs will have Lots of Places to Compete for First Page Placement

You know that saying LESS IS MORE? Well Google thinks that more is more and so they continue to cram as much good stuff as possible on page one of their search engine results (SERP). Searchers want it all and they want it now so Google has added exciting elements to SERPs. You’ll want to take advantage of all these opportunities to rank on page one and stand out among the competition: Local Pack, Carousel Results, Knowledge Graphs, and Rich Snippets.

Almost all of your SEO ranking rules still apply, but you will want to pay special attention to three aspects that help you rank high and stand out in search results:

local search SEO 2016Social Media Will Have Greater Influence

For all the talk about social media, we haven’t seen social media activity having a direct influence on rankings. Its indirect role of promoting your website and content is obviously beneficial in increasing traffic is clear. And inbound traffic does influence rankings so don’t stop posting but the future promises a stronger connection between social media engagement and ranking. Pages with more backlinks and less sharing will be outranked by pages with stronger social signals.

Google and other search engines are working harder to incorporate social media in search results, such as relevant twitter posts showing up on page one of Google search results. If it is important enough to take up such important real estate, trusts that Google has put great value in what the Twitter-verse has to say because they believe it is what searchers want to see.

Look for social signals to have a greater influence on search engine results in 2016, but don’t allocate too much time or money to increasing social media activity in the hopes of increasing your ranking. While you can enhance visibility, it may have little effect on rankings and the competition for the one or two social mentions that will show up high in search results will be far beyond the capabilities of a majority of businesses.

Goodbye Local 7-Pack! It’s All About the 3-Pack

Google gave us the local pack (those top seven local businesses, matching your search query and listed with photos, contact info and reviews) which was great, especially if you could get your business in the local pack. But they must have figured out that seven was too many considering most local searches were happening on the small screens of mobile devices because four months ago they snuck out in the middle of the night and changed that 7-pack into the Local 3-Pack worldwide.

Makes sense but it means less opportunity to make the top three and show up in the local pack so that means that working on your local SEO, onsite and offsite, is going to be even more important. Optimizing the right way (meaning the way Google approves of) will boost your ranking so you can still get on the first page even if you aren’t in the Local 3-Pack.


Smarter Keywords for Smarter Searches

It is almost scary how good search engines have gotten at trying to figure out what we want to search for even when we aren’t sure ourselves. They are correcting our misspelled words, recognizing the meaning behind our queries, and diving our intent before we finish typing the second word in the search box. You can ask a question a question three different ways, with three different keywords and still end up with the same results because Google is pretty sure they know what you meant. So Sarah in Sacramento might get the same results if she puts in “women’s shoes in midtown” and “high heels in midtown.”

So what do you do in 2016? Help Google out by digging in and finding terms and synonyms to your keywords and creating content on your pages that relates to your keywords and their related terms. This is great because it will make you get more specific with your content which needs to happen. The internet is stuffed to over-flowing with generic information pages so the more specific you can be in niche and topic the better your content will rank.

Don’t know what business information is showing when search engines and customers are looking at your business online? Use a free tool like the Local Score grader below that will search the most important business listings and customer review sites to let you know where your business’s online presence is shining bright and where you can implement a plan for improvements in 2016.

What’s Your Local Score?

Enter any business name and zip code and see how you show up on directories.

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

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